This month, the Science Based Targets Network (SBTN) released the first draft of its science-based targets for land for public consultation. These new targets build on and complement existing land sector climate targets to indicate expectations for corporate action beyond greenhouse gas emissions reductions. The SBTN land targets identify contributions that companies should make to protecting and restoring natural ecosystems, as well as supporting working lands that deliver benefits for nature.
The SBTN land targets comprise a set of three related goals: halting conversion of natural ecosystems, freeing up existing agricultural land for natural ecosystem restoration, and collectively improving the ecological integrity of working lands in a landscape context.
A no-conversion target built on the Accountability Framework
The first of these targets – a commitment to achieving businesses and supply chains free of ecosystem conversion – was developed in close collaboration with the Accountability Framework initiative. The SBTN’s No Conversion of Natural Ecosystems Target directs companies to avoid all land use change that meets the Framework’s definition of ecosystem conversion, including the conversion of forests, grasslands, wetlands, savannahs, and other ecosystems.
The target represents an adaptation of many of the principles and expectations of the Framework into a detailed set of requirements for corporate action and disclosure that can be validated by the SBTN team.
Furthermore, the target also advances greater shared understanding of no-conversion supply chains by including the introduction of a new global data product: a map of natural ecosystems, which draws from Accountability Framework definitions and forms the basis for the No Conversion target. The map is a major step forward in identifying where natural land that is not forest should be protected from conversion in order to meet climate, biodiversity, and other supply chain goals. As the map is improved over the coming year, companies will begin to have a more accurate picture of their exposure to ecosystem conversion and the actions they need to take to halt it.
In addition, in an attempt to balance ambition and inclusion of companies at different levels of maturity, the No Conversion target sets staged timelines for achievement. These targets stretch from 2025 to 2030 differentiated by ecosystem and the position of the company in the supply chain. The consultation draft also includes a proposal for a mechanism that allows downstream purchasers of products that include embedded or highly transformed commodities to fulfil a portion of their target by providing direct investment in high-risk sourcing landscapes in the absence of sufficient traceability to origin.
Integrated climate and land targets
Ecosystem conversion linked to agricultural and forestry commodity supply chains is a primary driver of both greenhouse gas emissions and biodiversity loss, in addition to its impacts on human rights and access to land and resources. Through its collaborations, the AFi has supported the standardisation of target setting and accounting methodologies across standards and sectors so that expectations for companies to reduce and eliminate this conversion is consistent and aligned.
The release of these new land targets comes shortly after the Science Based Targets initiative’s Forest Land and Agriculture (SBTi FLAG) guidance launched last year to guide companies in setting greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets from the land sector. These two sets of targets are designed to be complementary; companies required by SBTi to set FLAG climate targets are required by SBTN to set a No Conversion of Natural Ecosystems target and a Land Footprint Reduction.
By building on both SBTi FLAG and the Accountability Framework, the SBTN No Conversion of Natural Ecosystems Target supports a holistic approach to addressing commodity-driven deforestation and conversion across supply chain, climate, and nature initiatives.
Consultation open now
Feedback can be provided on all three land targets through 7 March 2023.